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Your bio is not an obituary! A conversation with Kelly Hoey, strategic networking consultant


Followers of our blog know that we champion attorney bios. In fact, the entire Great Jakes website platform is built on the premise that bios are the single most important part of a law firm website. So it was of great interest to me when my friend Kelly Hoey told me about a recent consulting project focused on – you guessed it – attorney bios.

Kelly, a noted “connector, advisor and project solver,” was invited by an AmLaw 200 law firm to conduct an attorney bio workshop. The goal was to help the attorneys make their bios more engaging and effective.

Below are some highlights from our conversation about her experience working with the attorneys and their bios.

What prompted your client – an AmLaw 200 firm – to conduct a bio workshop?
They were launching a new website and the CMO was interested in rethinking what attorneys were communicating on their bios pages. The CMO recognized that there was room for improvement.

Did the firm consider the bios to be important?
Definitely. This particular firm closely watches their website user statistics. They know that the attorney bios are the most viewed pages on their site. However, they were particularly struck by a statistic from the 2011 BTI study “How Clients Hire” that showed that 45% of current in-house counsel (current clients) periodically review their attorney’s bio. That got everyone’s attention.

Why did this stat strike a chord?
Those are their current clients -- and they could be re-assessing their choice of attorney! That stat made it super-clear that attorney bios are now a viable way to share information with both current clients and prospects. This means that updating the bio can’t be a once-a-year endeavor. That’s just not going to cut it anymore.

As I understand it, three attorneys volunteered to have their bios overhauled during the workshop. What advice did you offer them?
This firm has an entrepreneurial mindset. So, every attorney had a willingness to consider new ideas, particularly the three brave souls that volunteered. Here are some key points I told them to consider:

  1. Perspective: Try viewing the bio from your client’s perspective. Does your bio highlight transactions or cases that the client would find significant?
  2. Appearance: It’s important to organize the content to make it readable. No endless paragraphs! No pages that scroll forever! Think bullet points.
  3. Curate: You don’t need to put everything up there. Have just enough information so that a potential client says, “This person clearly has the skill-set that I need, let’s talk to them.”

How did you help the attorneys think through what information they should include?
There are four questions that I encourage every attorney to ask themselves when they update their bio:

  1. What work are you known for?
  2. What type of work do you want more of?
  3. Who is your target client?
  4. Why should someone hire you – how are you different?

Did you make any across-the-board recommendations?
One thing I suggested was that they could share more about themselves. For example, if an attorney did lots of charitable work – or was really involved in her community -- that should come across clearly in her bio. That type of information can really make a connection with people.

Also, their bios were very uniform in tone from attorney to attorney – and I recommended that they move away from rigid standards. One of the attorneys I worked with serves mostly owners of construction companies. It makes sense that the tone of her bio be less formal than an attorney whose clients are all corporate GCs. She might even want to refer to herself by her first name in her bio.

We’re seeing more and more “oddball” content on law firm websites (like video, podcasts and photos). I’m curious if you expect this firm to add oddball content to bios in the near future?
It wouldn’t surprise me! There was such an understanding and enthusiasm for differentiating their bios for the purpose of business development. This was not a group that was about to jump onto the next hot trend – but if there was a better way to connect with their clients, I think that they’d do it.

What about attorney profile photos?
I told one attorney – the moment that I met her – that she needs a new photo. She looked 25 years younger in real life! Coincidently, the night before her client told her the same thing. I hate getting my picture taken, so I understand people that are reluctant. But it’s sooooo important!

That’s fascinating. Are you saying that she never met her client before?
That’s correct, not until the night before the workshop.

That ties into a trend that we’ve seen – that geography matters less and less in the hiring of attorneys.
Exactly! One of the attorneys I worked with was a commercial real estate attorney with cross-border expertise. She never meets some of her clients – but they definitely look at her bio and the types of transactions she’s handled.

So, what do you think, are these attorneys going to change their bios?
They were completely on-board. Within several hours of the program many of the attorneys had submitted changes to the firm’s marketing department to revise their bios.

Do you have any parting wisdom to share about attorney bios?
Yes. Ask yourself, right now – at this very moment – why should you be hired? That’s what needs to be in your bio. Also – remember that your bio is not an obituary!

Not an obituary? That’s funny. What exactly do you mean by that?
Two things. First, it needs to communicate vitality – and lots of attorney bios fail to do this. Also, it doesn’t need to be a catalog of your entire career. Just answer the question “why should you be hired, today.” Chances are, if it happened once in 1982, that’s not really helping your cause today.


11 comments... read them below or add one.
  1. Forward thinking. Refreshing. Would love to see examples of solid bios. Also liked the article on firms marketing their attorneys as individuals like P&G brands. Frankly, attorneys would be wise to take it on themselves regardless of their firm’s commitment. It is their career and rainmakers are rewarded.

  2. […] my full interview with Great Jakes. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed 13-Year-Old Designs […]

  3. Kelly, you had me laughing out loud with your reference to a bio not being an obit. All of your suggestions are right on point. I’ve worked with a number of attorneys on creating a professional summary and many of their current bios and summaries read like a chronology of their career, sort of like an obit! Translation: Who cares? Clients want to know what value you bring to the table; why you’re different from everyone else out there. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing!

    -Lisa DiMonte

  4. Excellent article and great points by Kelly Hoey for all marketers to convey to their lawyers. For the legal industry, on either side of the border (I’m in Calgary), the stats are the same, and people are our top hit on our site as well. We focus on that, and it’s central to our brand messaging.

  5. […] Your Bio is Not an Obituary! (Read this, then re-read your bio and consider revisions.  Most bios beg for a change.) […]

  6. Roshan says:

    Superb article, I think these points made are really legendary in a sense. It’s really hard to find someone convey issues like this that can appeal to people all over the world.


  7. Excellent article and great points by Kelly Hoey for all marketers to convey to their lawyers.

  8. Really great points! The suggestion at the end about asking why someone should hire you – that’s a key! Also, having a current picture is so important! You don’t want to select a lawyer based on appearance but so often looks really do matter to people. Great article! I’ll be sharing some of these points!

  9. Great thoughts Kelly. Time and time again when you look at the Analytics, invariably the “About Us” page is one of the most frequented and the one with the biggest bounce rate when the subject content isn’t great. The only other thing I would add, is that the bio can also provide a jumping board into the individual lawyer’s social media stream, particularly Linkedin (providing of course their profile is robust)

  10. Great article on one of the most important parts of any law firms website. We have found that this is the most visited page of our site and therefore an area that all law firms should focus on and improve.

  11. […] 18, 2011 By Jay Pinkert Leave a Comment The pivotal role of attorney bios on law firm websites is well-established and much-discussed. It seems, though, that bios are still mired in a “bolt on” strategy — keeping […]

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